Setting the Stage

FullSizeRender(223)      Last weekend I took a behind the scenes tour of the Belcourt Theatre sponsored by Historic Nashville. The building opened in 1925 and was originally called the Hillsboro Theatre.

At that time, it had the largest stage in Nashville. Grand Ole Opry shows were performed there from 1934-1936 before moving to other venues. The Belcourt was one of the first buildings with air conditioning in Nashville. Folks would literally go to the movies to be cool.

The Belcourt just turned 90 years old in May. It is one of the few remaining independent film houses in our country. It has survived because of a dedicated core group of individuals who invested their time and money to keep it alive. Its survival is evidence that it only takes a few visionaries to breathe life into a dream.

We are at a pivotal time in Nashville history.   We see houses falling like dominoes all around us and newer, bigger and taller ones bouncing like pop up books in their place. It would be comical if it weren’t so real. Countless historic buildings have been leveled in the past year to make way for commerce.

When I moved to Nashville in the late 80’s, Hillsboro Village was my neighborhood. I saw lots of movies in the Belcourt. I loved the vibe of the Village. The neighborhood was alive with creativity. The music mecca was in that area. Change came. We have splintered. There are creative pockets all over town now. Nashville is in a state of transition.


This is the rub. We have to combine old and new, history and commerce. Old plumbing and limited accessibility have to bow to building codes and new laws. I love old buildings but they must be functional. I know that some folks don’t see the value in preservation. Starting from scratch can be easier, but easy is not always best. We loFullSizeRender(221)se some art every time the old buildings go down.  By removing all the quirky buildings with character, we will end up with a shiny, generic landscape with no soul.

I’m writing this piece to celebrate that something good has happened. Belcourt will be getting a facelift soon. It will be closing for a few months in 2016 in order to make itself better. I’m excited!


Hats off to the Board of Directors for their commitment and putting their money where their mouth is. It is good to see an example of preservation success. You can see details of the renovation plans in the latest issue of The Nashville Scene:  Belcourt Renovation Plans


See you at the movies!

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